Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day Nine: Tunis

After our adventures arriving in Tunis, it was a relief to have a relatively productive day and an amazing evening with the students.

The boss, the sponsoring company rep, and I started our day at the US Embassy, where we discussed the program potential improvements for the coming summer, and the success of the alumni. An added bonus at the embassy in Tunisia, the ambassador himself stopped in for just a moment to share his interest in the program. It was sort of an awkward moment. When he entered the room, everyone stood up and then we all stood awkwardly as he spoke with the sponsor rep. All the while a photographer flitted about shooting pictures. I suppose I know what it is like to be on the other side of my lens now. Then we all stood for a group shot and the ambassador was off.

During our meeting with the embassy, they were able to arrange a meeting for us with a private business school just across the street. We had a meeting scheduled with a public business school later in the day, but it was nice to add another productive meeting to our timetable.

The meeting was great. Interestingly enough, I think all the people we spoke with from the school had studied in America, including a Fulbright scholar and an American who may be teaching history. While on campus we ran into a 2013 program participant who was studying for an exam. We gave her quick hugs and wished her well, as we would see her that evening for dinner.

After lunch we were off to find the public business school. Many of our program alumni attended that school, also the dean is a Purdue graduate (we forgive him) and one of the faculty is a Kelley graduate. On the way to the school, we got quite lost. None of us could believe we would find the business school anywhere near the industrial wasteland we were circling. However, after several failed phone calls, our driver finally had directions, and lo and behold, there was a business school campus (conveniently across the street from the police barracks). We had another productive meeting, toured the campus, and ran into several program alumni.

Then it was back to the hotel for a much needed nap.

At 6 pm we were picked up by a 2013 program participant for our dinner at the Plaza Corniche. The restaurant was wonderful and the students were just amazing. They reminisced of their time at IU. They shared their own going accomplishments and continuing connections with each other. The sponsor rep pointed out that he is building a list of names of people who are going to change the world. And after spending time with all these exceptional young people on their home turf, I whole-heartedly agree.

Towards the end of the evening they went around the table, individually toasting my boss and her influence on them.

“I thank God for meeting [boss]. She taught by example. She didn’t need words to show me the way. And always with a smile. Even when she was tired or angry, she was smiling.”

True to form my boss was smiling through her tears.

And with a final round of hugs, my trip had come to an end. I headed back to the hotel to prepare for my early morning departure for the airport. It’s back to Bloomington where I can begin planning for another group of exceptional youth from the Middle East, North Africa, and Near Asia to join us on campus this summer.

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